Parishads: Sanoriya Vipra

by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaja

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Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami tells about Mahaprabhuís meetings with the Sanoriya Brahmin in the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of the Madhya-lila. Nothing is known about this Brahminís family background -- even his name is unknown. What we are concerned with here is the teachings which are to be found through his example.

Mahaprabhu Meets the Sanoriya Brahmin

When Mahaprabhu arrived in Mathura after passing through Kashi and Prayag, he first came to the Vishrama Ghat in Mathura where he bathed. Then he visited Krishnaís birthplace and the deity of Adi Keshava, dancing before him in ecstatic love. Other visitors to the temple were amazed and charmed by the Lordís ecstatic dancing. At the same time, a certain Brahmin fell at the Lordís feet and then started to dance with him, joining the Lord in his trance of divine love. They embraced each other and then raised their arms and told everyone to sing the holy names of Hari and Krishna and a great tumult arose within the Adi Keshava temple. When the kirtan finished, Mahaprabhu took the Brahmin aside and asked him,
"You are a sincere and respectable elderly Brahmin. Tell me where you got this wealth of love for Krishna."
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.17.155)
In reply, the Brahmin said, "While travelling throughout India, Madhavendra Puripada came to Mathura. He blessed me by setting foot in my humble abode. He initiated me by giving me the mantra and further blessed me by accepting food which I had cooked. He discovered the Gopal deity which is still being worshiped to this day by Govardhana."

As soon as he learned of the elderly Brahminís relationship to Madhavendra Puri, the Lord fell at his feet. The Brahmin became afraid at this action of the Lord and himself touched the Lordís feet. To teach that the spiritual masterís godbrothers are worshipable by the disciple, the Lord said, "You are my guru, and I am practically your disciple. It is not fitting for a guru to pay obeisances to a disciple."
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.17.170)

The Brahmin was astonished by the Lordís humility and said, "You are a sannyasi; it is not proper for a sannyasi to pay obeisances to a fallen person like myself." But the Brahmin had also determined from the Lordís ecstatic symptoms that he too had some relationship to Madhavendra Puri. He asked the Lordís travelling companion, Balabhadra Bhattacharya the name of the Lordís guru. Upon learning that his guess had been correct, he was overjoyed. The Brahmin then invited the Lord to his house and the Lord accepted, giving him the opportunity to personally render him various kinds of service.

The Lord Accepts the Brahminís Invitation

When it was time, the Brahmin asked Balabhadra Bhattacharya to cook the Lordís lunch, but Mahaprabhu himself intervened. He said, "Puri Gosai ate your cooking, so you should cook for me, too. This is what I have learned from his example."

The Lordís host belonged to the Sanoriya community of Brahmins. According to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, members of the business community (vaishyas) in the west of India are divided into several castes: Agrawalas, Kanwars, Sanwars, etc. Of these, the Agrawalas are considered to be very pure, while the two other groups are considered fallen as a result of their own karma. Those Brahmins who perform the ritual activities for the gold and jewellery merchants (Kanwars and Sanwars) are known as Sanoriya Brahmins. Normally, because of these low caste associations, they are considered to be fallen as a caste. Sannyasis thus refuse to accept food in their homes.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur adds to this the following analysis based on pure devotion. "The Sanoriya Brahmin was a pure devotee, and although even drinking water from his hand was prohibited due to his caste status, he nevertheless was fixed in the daiva-varnashrama system and the Absolute Truth, both of which favor pure devotion. Those who judged devotees in terms of their mundane caste status (the adaiva-varnashrama) or who cast aspersions on maha prasad were unhesitatingly identified as wicked fools by the Lord."

Though sannyasis generally do not accept food from members of the Sanoriya caste, Madhavendra Puri did not hesitate to do so. Judging this Brahmin to have the qualities of a Vaishnava, Puripada gave him initiation and then ate in his house. The Sanoriya Brahmin himself was simply taking consideration of the Lordís reputation, which would be subject to criticism if he ignored caste rules. The Lord explained that since there may be some difference opinion between the various scriptures and the seers, the best course of action was to follow the example set by those saintly persons who establish the principles of religion. Finally, the Brahmin could understand the desire of the Lord and he cooked for him himself.

Saving the Lordís Companions from Danger

As the Lord traveled from Puri to Mathura, his absorption in ecstatic love increased a hundredfold over that which he experienced in Puri. Upon arriving in Mathura, it increased a thousandfold, and when he went through the twelve forests of Vraja, it increased a hundred-thousandfold. Before leaving Nilachala, Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodar Goswami had arranged for two people to accompany him, Balabhadra Bhattacharya and another Brahmin servant.

While he was wandering through the twelve forests, a Rajaputa Krishna Das, was attracted by the Lord and joined him and his companions. When the Lord came to Akrura Ghat he jumped into the Yamuna in a transport of ecstasy and remained submerged for a long period of time. Krishna Das became afraid that the Lord had drowned and started to cry out for help. Balabhadra Bhattacharya heard his shouts and immediately went into the water to pull the Lord out.

Balabhadra was anxious about the Lordís great distraction in divine ecstasy and so he discussed with Madhavendra Puriís disciple, the Sanoriya Brahmin, about what could be done to protect him. After some discussion, they decided that it was not wise to allow the Lord to stay any longer in Vrindavan. Rather, by telling him of the full-moon bath at the end of the month of Magh, known also as Makara-sankranti, they should incite him to go to Soro-kshetra on the banks of the Ganges, whence they could go on to Prayag. Since the Sanoriya Brahmin was the godbrother of the Lordís guru, he was not able to refuse him when he made the suggestion to leave Vraja.

Though the Lordís body left the boundaries of Vrindavan, his consciousness remained fixed in love for Krishna, and his ecstatic trance remained unbroken. As he tired from walking, the Lord sat down underneath a tree. Nearby, a herd of cows was grazing which reminded him of Krishnaís Vrindavan lila. All of a sudden, a cowherd began to play his flute causing Mahaprabhu to faint in an ecstasy of love. The Lord fell to the ground, his breathing stopped and foam accumulated around his mouth. At this very moment, the Muslim soldier Bijali Khan was passing by with a troop of ten cavalrymen. On seeing the Lordís condition, Bijali Khan immediately became suspicious that foul play was afoot. He thought that the four men accompanying the Lord had poisoned him with datura in order to steal gold he had in his possession.

The Pathan immediately made prisoners of the Lordís four companions with the intention of killing them. The two Bengali Brahmins began to tremble in fear; the two others, however, were fearless and able to think on their feet. The Sanoriya Brahmin tried to explain to the Pathan by saying: "I am a Brahmin from Mathura and I know hundreds of people in the Emperorís court. This sannyasi is my guru and he happens to have an illness which makes him faint from time to time. Go ahead and tie us up and wait for a few minutes. My guru will soon regain consciousness and you will be able to hear the truth from him."

Bijali Khan listened to the Sanoriya Brahmin speak fearlessly and began to doubt his understanding of the situation. He replied, "I can recognize from your speech that you are from Mathura, but these two people are foreigners. They are also trembling, so they must be guilty of something."

The Rajaput a Krishna Das sensed that the situation was becoming more dangerous and said brazenly, trying to frighten the Pathan, "I live in the neighboring village. I have two hundred soldiers with a hundred cannons. I only have to shout and they will come here and take your horses and equipment. I think that you must be the real highwaymen and not these two Bengalis."

The Muslim cavalrymen were cast into doubt by the Rajaputaís fearless words. Meanwhile, the Lord came back to consciousness and in a transport of ecstasy, loudly cried out the names "Hari! Hari!" and began to dance. The Pathan soldiers were overcome by fear when they heard the Lord bellow and saw his ecstatic dancing. They immediately liberated their four prisoners so that the Lord did not see his devotees tied up. The Muslims were attracted by the Lordís physical beauty and spiritual mood and they asked him the question which had been troubling them: were these four people robbers who had drugged him in order to steal his possessions?

The Lord answered, "I am a sannyasi and I live by begging. I have no wealth. These four men are my followers. I sometimes suffer from epilepsy and fall unconscious as a result. These four companions mercifully stay with me when this happens to protect me and take care of me."

Onward to Prayag

Upon his arrival at Sorokshetra, Mahaprabhu took his bath in the Ganges and then desired to set off for Prayag along the banks of the holy river. He turned to the Sanoriya Brahmin and the Rajaputa Krishna Das, "You have taken such trouble to come all this way from Mathura just to show us the way. I do not wish you to trouble yourselves any further. Please go back now."

The two Vrajavasis answered, "We donít know when we will have the good fortune of your company again. There is a great likelihood of danger on the highways of this country which is dominated by non-Hindus. Balabhadra Bhattacharya does not know the local language. We think that these are good reasons for us to accompany you as far as Prayag."

The Lord laughed slightly and agreed.

[Excerpted from "Sri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates" by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj]

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